Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Indien: ein Blue Curacao-frei Bereich

I know this will sound cranky-expat-food snob of me, but I sometimes think the Berliners/Germans deserve all the bad "ethnic" food there is here. I know if they demanded curries (or Pho or substitute most any "ethnic" delight) with any complexity or depth of flavor at all, immigrant chefs would be thrilled to provide them. But the thing is, most of the locals I know are overjoyed with the Indian food on offer in Berlin. Among the non-German residents of Germany, especially those familiar with Indian cuisine (coming from countries with Indian immigration, such as the US, UK, or Canada for example) Indian food in Germany has a laughable reputation. I for one, have refused to eat it since trying it early in my time in the Fatherland. Most every dish on the menu in most every restaurant tastes exactly the same and there is a suspicious amount of cream going on. I'm aware that cream has a place in some Indian dishes, but all of them??? One expat blog wonders: Do they pipe this sauce in from the currywurst place next door? They really do taste like ketchup seasoned with curry powder (and cream). And then there's my personal pet peeve: almost every Indian restaurant in Berlin serves all kinds of discount cocktails. I'm talking mai tais, swimming pools, and a lot of scary looking drinks with blue curacao. (I also find it exasperating that the locals insist on drinking mango lassis at Vietnamese restaurants, but I suppose that's another story). I'm not saying an "ethnic" restaurant has to remain firmly within the bounds of some randomly designated field of authenticity. There certainly are/have been Indian establishments in New York (and no doubt elsewhere) with cocktail menus. These restaurants mesh Indian cuisine with a more upscale New York restaurant culture and in my opinion it generally works (they've also put thought into which cocktails to serve, creating new drinks that pairs with the food they serve, not just haphazardly mixing the cheapest liquors available). And I guess who am I to say that you shouldn't drink a swimming pool with your creamed ketchup curried chicken? At the end of the day, both are attempts by restauranteurs to make a few extra dollars or Euros. Still, the cranky-expat-food snob in me gets irate every time I see this. After all this ranting, I do have some good news. Good Indian food does exist in Berlin, it just might not be in your neighborhood. I will admit that from the small list of potentially decent Indian restaurants I drew up, I chose to visit Satyam because it's website makes it seem decidedly un-blue curacao-y. Satyam is a vegetarian restaurant specializing in ayurvedic (I'm not sure that this impacts the taste of the food, but you can take a test to determine your your constitutional type or dosha and I suppose they would then help you order based on the result) and south Indian food. The restaurant isn't really all that much to look at and the service isn't anything out of the ordinary and I may have had better Indian food at various points in my life, but after such a long Indian food drought ... oh the food was good. I'd been under the weather and not craving much of anything, but I can't seem to get the mustard greens with panir (made in-house with milk from Rudower Farm - apparently long acquaintances of Satyam) out of my head. We also sampled an okra curry and the lunch special (4,90 Euros; changes weekly). This was a little more hit or miss - I could have done without the tofu something-or-other in peanut sauce, but the daal was better than average. The menu is immense and there are lots of dishes I'm eager to try: South Indian wild eggplant curry! Uttapam and Vaddai! I wasn't up for trying it, but I was excited to see that Satyam offers a few Indian wines - I'll take that over a neon blue cocktail any day. Satyam Goethestra├če 5

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